Address by President Zuma at the Gala Dinner in honour of the contribution of Arts and Culture to the struggle for liberation and the building of a new society, Johannesburg

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11 Dec 2014
Minister Nathi Mthethwa and all Ministers and Deputy Ministers present,
Veterans of the Arts and Culture industry and all artists present,
Representatives of the various bodies
Distinguished Guests
Sanibonani, Dumelang, Goeie naand, molweni!
We have gathered tonight, for a very specific purpose – to celebrate our achievements.
Our country is marking 20 years of freedom and democracy.
When we look back at how far we have come, we marvel at the achievements scored in a short space of time.
We have built a solid democracy with strong institutions. The standard of living has improved for millions of people. Many who had no water, electricity, housing and other services now have these services.
We still have a lot more work to do because the legacy of apartheid left millions of our people living in abject poverty and deprivation.
While the work continues to develop our country further and improve the quality of life, we felt it prudent to meet with the creative industry.
We have met before, but in work sessions where we discuss what we should do together to development the industry.
This time, we have met specifically to acknowledge the role played by artists in the struggle for liberation and also the consolidation of freedom and democracy.
The creative industry sector has contributed immensely to both the struggle for liberation and also the period of reconstruction and development of our country.
Your pens, voices, painting brushes, instruments, dance and films told the story of our dreams, the dream of a free, united, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa.
Many artists mobilized and galvanized the local population and international community to be on the side of our struggle and support our aspirations to build a world with a human face.
In the process, many artists were subjected to the brutal violence of an inhumane apartheid regime.
We remember and salute our international icon, Mme Miriam Makeba who, in the United Nations’ General Assembly in 1963, was the voice of the voiceless. With passion and conviction, she told the story of the plight of her people under apartheid. She spoke of the South Africa we wanted.
As a result, the UN immediately moved to declare apartheid as a crime against humanity.
We salute all our much accomplished veterans – Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa, Letta Mbulu, Caiphus Semenya, Julian Bahula, members of the Amandla Cultural Ensemble and many more.
All of them spoke out strongly and with conviction against apartheid.
You will recall that comrade Jonas Gwangwa was the face and voice of the Amandla Cultural Ensemble, which was instrumental in mobilising the international community through the showcase of our diverse cultural heritage.
In fact, late former President of the ANC, O.R. Tambo, admitted that Amandla could do in a two hour performance what he struggled to convey in twenty years.
This is a testament to the resounding transformative power of the arts!
Tonight we remember and celebrate writers like Es’kia Mphahlele, Peter Abrahams, Miriam Tlali, Ellen Khuzwayo,  Bessie Head, Nadine Gordimer,  Lewis Nkosi, to name a few.
They were instrumental in creating awareness about the oppressive nature of apartheid.
It was the poetry of Don Mattera, James Matthews, Ben Dikobe Martins, Wally Serote, Christine Doubts, Mafika Gwala and many other poets who inspired young people to surge forward and keep the flame of the anti-apartheid struggle burning.
The paintings and photography of Dumile Feni, Omar Badsha, Gerard Sekoto, Thami Mnyele, George Pemba, put the story of South Africa on canvass.
Inside the country many musicians kept our people encouraged and entertained at the height of apartheid, promoting our arts and culture.
We remember Mahlathini and the Mahotela Queens to the Soul Brothers, Stimela, True Blue, and many others who during the 80s kept the spirit alive.
Beyond our shores we celebrate Artists against Apartheid, many anti-apartheid artists who produced songs about Madiba, Steve Biko and South Africa in general to keep the flame of freedom alive.
Indeed we recall the organisers of the famous Madiba concert in London which was beamed to millions around the world, raising more awareness about our just struggle for freedom.
We also remember radio presenters who provided the platform for musicians to share their message with our people and the world.
Music presenters of the time worked under stringent conditions, under the watchful eye of apartheid censors. But they still managed to provide a platform to our musicians.
Indeed, artists are the custodians of the nation’s soul and are better able to articulate and celebrate South Africa’s cultural diversity.
As we mark 20 years of freedom we look at ourselves and where we come from. We like what we see. We fought a good fight. We fought a noble struggle. And we won.
It was Es’kia Mphahlele who said: “We have to see ourselves no longer as victims but as builders, planners, and creators.”
Now is the time to build, and artists are part of that journey of building a new South Africa, one that is united, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous.
As rightly captured in our National Development Plan, the arts, culture and heritage sector is pivotal to nation building and social cohesion.
This is the role and responsibility that we have placed on you as the sector: to redefine the soul of this new nation and use your talent and skills for radical consciousness towards economic transformation.
We must also bear in mind that arts and culture is not just entertainment. Arts and culture is a serious money making business.
Recent research indicated that the contribution of music, craft, visual arts, books and film was estimated to be in excess of 15 billion rand.
The sector is thus an important contributor to the economy and the country’s GDP.
We are in agreement with artists that they should directly benefit from the work they do in this growing industry.
It is for this reason that the new vision of government, through the Department of Arts and Culture, is to refocus the role of the arts, culture and heritage sector to actively promote entrepreneurship across the value chain of the arts and culture industry.
Over the last few years we have actively engaged with the sector through consultative meetings.
We have made progress since the first meeting right here at the Sandton Convention Centre in 2009.
One of the success stories since then includes the establishment of the Cultural and Creative Industries Federation of South Africa, which is chaired by Ms Yvonne Chaka Chaka.
I am happy that this organisation was formed as I had remarked in the 2009 meeting that this industry should be able to speak with one voice through one organisation. You have also since then, established the South African Music Industry Council through the DTI and the Department of Arts and Culture.
While we say artists should own their work, we are aware that beyond intellectual property rights which need to be sorted out still in the formal economy, there is the huge problem of piracy as well.
As government we are determined to assist as much as possible to fight piracy, using all our instruments, from the police to the SA Revenue Service and the criminal justice system chain as a whole.
At the same time, we need to use education and awareness as law enforcement alone will not solve the problem.
Our people need to know that piracy kills music and destroys the livelihoods of their favourite artists. We need to work together to get that message across.
In addition to piracy, artists are still grappling with issues such as social security, the distribution of royalties and tax matters. That is all work in progress to be discussed at other forums that have been created for collaboration with government.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me reiterate that tonight is not a working session!
It is a celebration and acknowledgement of the role that artists have paid in nourishing the soul of this nation and in keeping hope alive in the darkest period of our history.
Allow me to also thank our young generation of artists who have flourished during the period of freedom and democracy.
They inspire our youth and give hope to many that life in South Africa can be better for young people.
From those who shine on our televisions screens to the visual artists and authors, we congratulate all of you for your contribution to shaping contemporary culture and arts.
As we do so, let us not forget to remember those who are dearly departed.
We think of our former president and founding father of this nation, Nelson Mandela who was a visionary artist in his own right.
We salute him for laying the foundation of a new South Africa where people’s talents can flourish and nourish the soul of the nation.
We mourn the passing of some of our artists recently, especially the young, gifted and talented musical, Lulu Dikana. She passed away after a short illness.
We are thankful to both the living and those who passed on. But in Africa the dead are not dead.
They live in us and should inspire us to carry on where they left off.
Namhlanje, sidlulisa ukubonga kakhulu ngeqhaza elidlalwe abaculi ababhali, abadwebi nabanye abezinkakha zikaqedisizungu ngesikhathi sobandlululo.
Izingqalabutho eziningi zidlale indima enkulu ekwenzeni ukuthi umhlaba wonke wazi kabanzi ngobandlululo nengcindezelo kulelizwe, ngenxa yeqhaza elalibanjwe abaculi, abadwebi nabaningi bedlulisa umyalezo wenkululeko ngamakhono abo.
Siyabonga kakhulu ngalokhu ukuzinikela okungaka ekwakheni iNingizimu Africa ekhululekile nebuswa nokwentando yeningi.
As you say in show business, the show must go on.
Let us celebrate our country. Let us celebrate our achievements.
Together we move South Africa forward.
I Thank you.
Source: The Presidency